If you were cognizant of The Simpsons in 1995, then you were undoubtedly deeply invested in the two-part episode “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” The initial half of the mysterious, cliffhanger episode was the Season 6 finale, while the second half was the Season 7 premiere. In between seasons, fans were all left to ponder the same, pressing question: who shot Mr. Burns? (The conceit was a stylistic spoof of Dallas and the quest to uncover who shot J.R.)
The answer, surprisingly enough, turned out to be Maggie Simpson, who accidentally shot Mr. Burns when he attempted to steal her lollipop (and no, the joke about stealing candy from a baby was not lost on viewers).
While this two-part episode has gone down in history as one of the most iconic and memorable Simpsons episodes, the original pitch was vastly different from the final product.
Josh Weinstein, one of the show’s writers and former showrunners, recently shared a photo of the initial pitch for the episode — and Maggie’s name is never mentioned once as a possibility for the culprit.
Summary of our pitch for "Who Shot Mr. Burns" from the June '94 story conference notes.
Neat to see how this developed (we thought it could be Barney but on the very next page -so within minutes of discussing it- someone suggests Maggie) And Patty & Selma could've been suspects. pic.twitter.com/8O3mOdY7vr
— Josh Weinstein (@Joshstrangehill) March 11, 2018
“The story has to basically be about Mr. Burns making six mortal enemies,” the pitch reads. “Obviously Homer, maybe Bart, and possibly other major characters like Apu, Barney, etc. Perhaps he fires Smithers”
The initial pitch also suggests that Mr. Burns engenders ill will among the town via “a big real estate thing where Burns is going to buy this block of downtown area and demolish it to build some crazy Burns new thing, and it includes Moe’s Bar, and maybe the Kwik-E-Mart and maybe Patty and Selma’s apartment.” In the final draft of the script, however, it’s Mr. Burns’ enormous sun shield, which forces Springfield to rely on nuclear power, that is the suggested tipping point for the other characters.
This is a fascinating peek into the thought process behind one of the most memorable shows in TV history — and, fortunately, Weinstein suggests there may be more pages to come.